Recovering Place

Why Place Matters edited by Wilfred McClay and Ted McAllister As a Southern man living in New England, I think often about place. My bookshelf betrays my interest in the my home region, displaying I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition alongside Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces, Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, and O’Connor’s The Habit of Being. I speak frequently about life south of the Mason-Dixon, from its “Yes, ma’am” and “Praise Jesus!” to its heavenly cuisine and natural beauty. … [Read more...]

A Place for Liturgy

In his book Word and Church Anglican theologian John Webster writes, "At its best… attention to 'context' can remind theology that there is no pure language of Zion, and that theology's conceptual equipment is borrowed from elsewhere. But at its worst it is a form of mental and spiritual laziness, an unwillingness to admit that theology must go about its own business if it is to speak prophetically and compassionately about the gospel to its neighbors.”In other words, when theology ceases to … [Read more...]

Apocalypse Now and Then: America, Rome, and The City of God

The late Fred Phelps made his Westboro Baptist Church famous by being as outrageously offensive as possible. Perhaps the most universally reviled of Phelps’s many controversial tactics was the picketing of military funerals. Waving signs reading “THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS,” Westboro disciples made not only a political statement but a theological one as well. According to Phelps, the deaths of American soldiers signified God’s judgment on a nation that had abandoned the Christian religion by tol … [Read more...]

Seeing Through Jazz, Darkly

Being a Christian artist—or an artist who happens to be Christian, or however you want to taxonomize it —can make you feel a bit like Odysseus. Caught between the Scylla of earnest preachiness and the Charybdis of vague nothingness, how do you create art that is meaningful but not pedantic, rooted in a Christian vision but not overbearing? Visual artists and writers must struggle with this continually, but perhaps the answer is a little easier for composers, whose chosen medium (assuming you wri … [Read more...]

The Curse of Calling and the Myth of Creativity

The word “calling” has the power to elicit eyerolls and sighs – a cliché of the worst kind. Though it stirs up deep desires to commit to a higher purpose and raises hopes for divine guidance, it also awakens the profound confusion within our culture and the church around personal identity and the meaning of a good life. Consider this grating email invitation to a Christian leadership retreat on calling, all too typical: As you consider how 2013 ought to be different, start with the basics. Do yo … [Read more...]

Divergent’s Big Missed Chance

What would happen if a group of people dedicated themselves to the pursuit of a particular virtue at the expense of all others? That is the question Veronica Roth explores in her popular dystopian novel Divergent, the movie adaptation of which has just come out on DVD and blu-ray. Given the DVD release and how well the movie did at the box office, it’s an opportune time to take a look at how the society Roth constructed rests on a false conception of the virtues.Marketed as the successor to T … [Read more...]

Timeless Moments: Memory, Time, and Eternity in T.S. Eliot and Wong Kar Wai

This is the use of memory: For liberation - not less of love but expanding Of love beyond desire, and so liberation From the future as well as the past. -T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” Released every ten years, the Sight & Sound poll of the hundred greatest films ever made is often considered the most authoritative list on the matter. Given its long view of film history, the poll tends to favor movies that have been around long enough to gain permanent critical acclaim. It speaks to the po … [Read more...]